The city of Port St. Joe figures to save hundreds of thousands of dollars by performing a bulk of the second phase of water pipe replacement in-house.

The city of Port St. Joe figures to save hundreds of thousands of dollars by performing a bulk of the second phase of water pipe replacement in-house.

A pilot project along Marvin Avenue completed this week has demonstrated that the Public Works Department can cut it on the concrete slicing and pipe replacement cheaper and faster than a contractor.

That will mean the city will use Public Works to complete roughly half of the four miles of pipe to be replaced this year as part of the second phase of replacement.

Public Works director John Grantland said his crew could likely perform much of the work in the third and final phase.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my staff,” Grantland said. “Our skill set has changed. We have several employees who worked for contractors and we can do more work than a contractor and we can do it faster and save money.”

The Marvin Avenue section between Sixth and Tenth Streets was finished in roughly four days, Grantland said, and at a fraction of the cost - $26,000 compared to a $95,000 bid for the work.

Commissioner Rex Buzzett also praised employees for their commitment to the city.

“It makes me feel better as a commissioner and a taxpayer that they are feeling such pride in their city,” Buzzett said.

The city will still bid out – and did so formally during Tuesday’s regular bi-monthly meeting – a portion of the second phase, primarily areas around Port St. Joe Elementary School and adjoining streets as well as the area around the former Gulf Pines Hospital.

That will include Juniper, Sunset Circle and 20th Street.

The State Revolving Fund has guaranteed a $1 million “forgiveness” loan and an $800,000 loan for the city to finish the second phase.

Grantland and his team will concentrate primarily along Marvin, Long Avenue, U.S. 98 and adjoining and intersecting streets.

“We think we will be able to save several hundred thousand dollars,” said city manager Jim Anderson.

Grantland said the savings could top half a million dollars.

Commissioners also approved Tuesday going out for bid for materials for that replacement work.

In addition, work will begin this summer on the first phase of replacement in the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe, which is being funded by a $650,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

The city has already held a first public hearing in the process to apply for another CDBG to finish the North Port St. Joe section next year.

In total, pipe replacement will be taking place throughout the city proper on three fronts over the next year; a contractor to be selected by bid, Public Works and the contractor working under the CDBG, Anderson said.

“This will be a major undertaking,” Anderson said. “There will be a lot of construction. This will be a year-long major project. There will be major inconvenience.”

But, Anderson said, once the second phase is completed roughly 95 percent of the residential areas of Port St. Joe will be completed as part of the city’s effort to replace some 20 miles of aging pipe that is seen as a possible culprit to chronic problems with discolored water.

On another front, sampling has been completed on a water study being performed by CDM Smith, the contractor that designed the city’s three-year-old water plant.

The samples have been forwarded to Virginia Tech University for analysis. Clay Smallwood with Preble Rish Engineers said they expect to have a report from CDM in the next few weeks.

The hope is that the pilot testing of the system, from plant to home, will highlight issues with the water that could be addressed through tweaking the chemical treatment process.

*Mayor Mel Magidson encouraged everyone to attend and enjoy this Saturday’s Music Fest at George Core Park. The lineup of acts has links to Port St. Joe and the concert, along with the selling of commemorative coins, is the major fundraising for the Centennial Celebration to begin June 28.

Music begins at 3 p.m. ET and the cost of admission is $10.